Guest Star: "They Would Have Been Thrown Out In The Street & Their Lives Ruined"

Tuesday, Jul 3, 2012 5:50PM

Written by SOHH for Brother Ali

[After making headlines for taking part in an Occupy Homes stand last month which placed him temporarily behind bars, Minnesota rapper Brother Ali puts SOHH readers up on game.]

There's a lot of energy in terms of common people underground coming together to make changes. A few years ago we were all pretty excited about Barack Obama and so we got involved. A lot of people really got involved and into politics when Barack was campaigning.

Since he's been in office, he's been either unwilling or unable [to make certain changes] but we've actually seen the corporations and the banks and the prison industrial complex grow and increase. I think a lot of people are feeling like we need to take some action on our own.

The Occupy Movement kicked off last year and it's been really great. This particular branch of it, there were people who were in foreclosure and were "trying" to make payments. The banks have caused this whole housing crisis and they've made money in every part of it. Every stage of this crisis, they've found ways to make money. They planned it, actually, so they can make money on the way up and on the way down.

One of the last points of that plan is to find any little fracture on the part of the homeowner and to take their home. They'd give out loans they knew were bad for people, give out mortgages they knew were bad and then they took all of those loans they made and sold them to other groups. Then they created a situation where they could bet for or against those investments that they created. So they bet against them because they knew they would fail.

Then when it fell apart, they got tax money. They got that whole tax money bailout. So now what they're doing is foreclosing on houses after people have been paying for them five, ten, fifteen years. These are people who want to work something out, who want to make payment arrangements, they're taking it out for them and selling them again.

People are losing their family homes. This is just one of the areas where the banks are really robbing our society. So common people from Occupy, and it's drawn attention from all around, have gone into these homes and said we're not going to let the police or banks take our homes and basically set up a barricade to do this.

People get arrested from this but what it does is stops the police from taking the home that day. It gives a little bit more time to put pressure on the banks and pressure on the authorities to actually negotiate with people.

There's always been a focus family and it's changed a couple times. But each one of these cases, there's been five or six cases and they've all been won. These are people who have done everything right but would have been thrown out into the streets, would have lost their homes and their lives in ruins. People getting together and stepping in made it so that they were able to hold onto the house for a little extra time, put a little pressure on the bank and just have them renegotiate.

This particular case I got arrested for, the Cruz family didn't even miss a payment. They made an online payment on their home and either they didn't fill in one of the boxes right or it did not show up electronically, which happens.

Normally you can say you didn't know what happened and pay it. But the bank came back and said, "Your payment is late. You owe this payment plus the penalty is two-month's paymetn, plus, another payment is coming through. So now you owe us four months of mortgage payments."

Most people can't do that. You don't have to be a crazy, reckless spender to not have four month's payments in the bank just chilling. So they went into foreclosure.

There's been a lot of raids, the police have raided the house a few times. 18 cities had demonstrations just for that house because it's become a national movement. So in Minneapolis, 13 of us were arrested on that property.

I was the first one to go in and the last one to come out. I got out around 1 or 1:30 in the morning or something like that. We all go to court on July 5th to see what our charges are going to be.

They can do anything from drop the charges, which I hope they will, or do whatever to punish us. There are people who get made examples out of who get a little bit of time [in jail] like 30 days or something like that. Me, personally, I have custody of son and as a dad having custody, any kind of complication can be a touchy subject.

This is a movement I've been involved with for about six months now doing all types of different things. But this was the first time I actually got arrested. A lot of people have been arrested during this movement. You can make a choice of whether you want to fully get involved or if you want to step back. Different people get involved in different ways.

Brother Ali is an American Hip Hop artist based in Minneapolis, MN. He was born in Madison, WI and spent his early childhood moving from city to city in the Midwest (mostly in Michigan). Finally Ali's family settled in North Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1992. He attended Cooper High School in New Hope MN. It was in the North Minneapolis neighborhood where he converted to Islam and was given the name Ali (his birth certificate reads Jason Newman). Brother Ali now lives in a house in South Minneapolis where he continues to record.

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